Blogs - We, The Media
After the Tsunami came smashing into coastal Asia and East Africa, much of the initial information about what had happened came from the internet, especially from personal journals or blogs.
Blog - "noun (short for Weblog) (1999) : a website that contains an online personal journal with reflections, comments and often hyperlinks provided by the writer."
[*Blog* was recently declared as the no1. word of 2004]
I spend a good chunk of the day in front of the screen, so blogs [using aggregators to scan RSS feeds] do feature on the things I read online. With the exception of books, I head online for practically everything else - email, news, blogs, academics, research and ofcourse IM.
A colleague of mine asked me this morning - how do you know which blogs to read and which ones to not? Well, you don't.
Its the same with newspapers, you skim and scan pages at first and then select those that you want to read. Blogs are more interactive than newspapers with people from across the globe pitching in their thoughts on the same topic. Also called as participatory journalism, blogs are more of a consumer-centric media where the consumers control when and how they obtain news as well as what they define as news. This media is always on, real-time and 24x7.
So then, the inevitable question - will blogs replace traditional journalism? I think not.
Journalists are accountable to the general public through their credibility. Bloggers on the other hand aren't accountable for what they report. If someone reports on a subject regularly via a blog, then they are just using an electronic delivery mechanism that is fundamentally no different from any other electronic publishing mechanism. At the end of the day, in any media (traditional or non-traditional), the responsibility has always been on the reader to cast a critical eye on what is being reported. The newspapers offer a dangerous illusion that you can relax in this regard.
Apart from this, what hits you hard is the sheer volume of information that are available in these blogs. I'd rather call that information overload. Sometimes you feel so exasperated by the amount of information that it makes you want to slow down, think deeply and respond to it in some meaningful way. Now, that I think about it, I feel stressed by my own inability to think deeply about every piece of information that I came across.
A good way to tackle information overload (from my experience atleast) is to sample whats already there, but to be more selective of what gets there in the first place. I'm not advocating completely closed filters, because we need serendipity to discover new concepts and ideas. A judicious selection of sources, is far better, than a more-or-less random sampling of unselected content.